Center for Gender and Refugee Studies

In 1999, following her groundbreaking legal victory in Matter of Kasinga, Karen Musalo founded the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) to meet the needs of asylum seekers fleeing gender-based violence. Since its inception, CGRS has helped thousands of advocates around the country secure protection for their clients. CGRS has also continued to litigate high-impact cases like Kasinga, achieving positive precedential decisions that have advanced the law for women, children, and LGBT individuals fleeing persecution in their home countries.

CGRS envisions a world where no refugee is denied her right to protection under U.S. and international law. We strive to achieve this vision by: 1) providing technical assistance and training to attorneys representing asylum seekers; 2) tracking and monitoring the adjudication of asylum cases nationwide to expose disparities and bias in decision-making; 3) undertaking strategic litigation to advance sound asylum laws and defend due process rights; 4) engaging in policy advocacy to align U.S. policies with international human rights norms; and 5) conducting international human rights fact-finding to document human rights abuses and address the root causes that drive migration.

THE CASE: In 2018 U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions intervened in an asylum case involving a domestic violence survivor from El Salvador known as Matter of A-B-, certifying the case to himself for reconsideration. CGRS immediately joined the applicant’s legal team and began rallying attention to her case. In June Sessions issued a misguided and legally incorrect decision in A-B-, reversing a previous grant of asylum to our client and casting doubt on the viability of all asylum claims based on domestic violence, gang brutality, and other forms of persecution perpetrated by nongovernment actors. The ruling marked a clear attempt by Sessions to shut down access to asylum for the vast majority of individuals seeking protection at our southern border.

CGRS is now launching a multifaceted campaign to reverse Sessions’ decision in Matter of A-B-, including litigation as well as nationally coordinated public advocacy. With support from the Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation, CGRS will challenge Sessions’ ruling in Matter of A-B- before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. We will work to secure a positive, precedential decision that upholds the right of women, children, and families fleeing persecution to seek asylum. To bolster our efforts we will coordinate a national amicus strategy in support of our arguments. A positive decision from the Fourth Circuit on this issue would improve the ability of asylum seekers to secure protection in the United States and restore the progress that has been achieved on behalf of those fleeing nongovernment persecution.

Contact: Moira Duvernay, Deputy Director, 200 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 565-4877.